Dear Dr. Ford:
You have been on my mind since the report of your assault was publicly disclosed without your consent. I watched through tears as you answered question after question about your experience. So much of what you said and how you felt spoke to my heart.
You see, Dr. Ford, I am a victim of sexual assault too. My attack happened on the campus of a major evangelical seminary more than fifteen years ago. I was a 23 year-old graduate student at the time, unmarried, and preparing for a ministry calling to help women experience the healing, forgiveness, and peace that God offers through the hope and redemptive power of the Christian gospel.
Then one night, my hopes came crashing down around me. A man whom I trusted – a fellow student – sexually assaulted me. Even saying those words makes me remember the pain, shame, fear, and even disgust that I felt when it happened. Every time I’ve been asked to recount the details of my attack, the shame comes back. The wound re-opens.
As I listened to your testimony, I knew what you were going through and my heart was broken. There are many parallels between your story and mine that made me want to share that I am thankful for your courage. I know what you’re going through. And there are millions of women just like us who have been encouraged by the willingness to tell your story.
And like your testimony, there are people who will never believe we have told the truth to the best of our ability. Here are some ways that your story and mine are alike:
1. Neither of us immediately reported our attack to law enforcement when it happened. We didn’t tell family or friends. In fact, my husband of five years did not know what happened to me until a few months ago. My children still don’t know. In fact, both of us had confidential information shared without our consent.
2 .When I did report what happened to school administration, I was interviewed about the events by the powerful leader of my seminary, who invited three other men to sit in the meeting and hear me recount the horrifying details. Like you, I cannot remember all the details – including the names of the men who were present in the room – but I do remember what happened to me with painful clarity. Some people have said my lapses in memory are due to trauma, complex trauma, or PTSD. But I see it as God’s mercy.
3. Just like you, seeing headlines in the news, triggered my memory in May of this year. A horrible event from 15 years ago that I allowed myself to forget came back through very vivid memories and painful flashbacks. Dr. Ford, my memories were confirmed when I reached out to people with access to information about my assault.
My story, though, has a different ending than yours. It is a redemptive ending I wish all survivors could experience. The new leaders of my seminary immediately responded with: "We will support you if you wish to press charges." Instead of being questioned, or requiring me to recall the names and details I had long ago forgotten, I received affirmation, support, and love.
This is the response we should extend to all survivors of abuse no matter the gender, political party, race, religion, or how many years have passed.
I also have a sense of how this might play out for you. The public humiliation you have suffered and the pain of retelling your story will likely become a reality for the rest of your life. You may be forced to think often that the man whom you said attacked you is seated on the highest court in the land. You will likely feel that justice has not been served.
But I want to tell you what has helped me through my healing: There is a higher court, and a perfect judge who always judges rightly. He’s never harmed anyone. The Bible says that “a bruised reed, he never broke.” He was always gentle with women. He affirmed their dignity and silenced their accusers.
His name is Jesus of Nazareth. I committed my life to him 22 years ago, and every day since then I’ve tried to give him my pain, anger, hatred, and sorrow. I have, as the Bible says, “cast all my cares on Him, because he cares for me.”
With love I invite you to trust him through this season of pain in your life. He will “never leave you nor forsake you.”